Category Archives: Poetry

Friday, late afternoon


Hugh Silk, MD, MPH

Have you thought anymore about hospice?

All sound seems to disappear

A tear refuses to decide between the lacrimal duct and her cheek

Suspended like the moment

Not ready yet


Silence broken

The whistle of her lungs creates harmony

You there on your coach

Oxygen tube dangling to the floor

I on my knees at your side

I listen intently to your chest sounds

Through the snores of your husband

from the only other room in this basement apartment

And the music from the smart phone as your grandson plays a game

And the loud snore that pierces the calm

While the wind outside the door clashes against the frozen pane

A Shakespearean reminder of the tension here

in the warmth beside your space heater

Harmony has become cacophony


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Now and Then


Nancy Baker2017.JPG

Nancy J. Baker, MD

We travel
in two dimensions,
living in time and place
experiencing life and death.

Now and here
or then and there.
What about now and there
and then and here?

Pancreatic cancer
means then is now,
there is here

Old age
implies then, not now,
remote from here
and unimaginable.

What if we live
as if today is our last?
Is now forever
and there everywhere?

The paradox of
now there and then here.
Impermanence means
take nothing for granted.

Heaven on earth
now and then,
here and there.

Seeing Through

Christopher Lee, Medical Student

Christopher Lee, Medical Student

When his older brother got ALS,
he promised they’d find a cure.
When his older sister got ALS,
he promised her his untiring care.
When he himself got ALS,
with self-love and a sense of certitude
he found belief in a lie, which he knew
was white as the doctor’s coat:
each ability he’d come to lose
would be transferred to a child
a girl in Africa, a boy in Vietnam, so he imagined.
As it was for his siblings,
the gift-giving began focally,
then gradually, reliably spread.
First, the ability to walk:
one day his feet grew heavy
and soon like lead gave up;
thus, a baby hearing “Come to Momma”
took a few first suspenseful steps.
Next, was teeth brushing:
his hands argued with each other
as mint paste squeezed to the floor;
and in his mind, with parents hovering,
a child made a few foamy, delicate swirls.
Eventually, the ability to swallow:
his and his family’s hoarded frustrations
and the worry in his wife’s eyes
made it progressively difficult, then impossible;
he almost forgot that somewhere –
to a babbling choo-choo train
or cooing propeller plane –
first bites of solid food were being gobbled.
By the time it was too much to leave the house
(such were his cramps, fatigue, and incontinence),
he longed more for being honest than happy.
Perhaps this was why there came a day,
when he muttered a favor to his neurologist.
Understanding, having been asked before,
the doctor led the man and his wife
through the hospital corridors, to a set of doors.
The wife pressed the button; they wheeled in.
The maternity ward was large, but they found
the double-paned window.
He sat just tall enough to see through –
babies receiving life.